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HomeLiteracy/ESLShared Book Reading Benefits ELL Language Skills

Shared Book Reading Benefits ELL Language Skills

Shared book reading—the process of reading alongside children and engaging them by pointing to pictures, discussing word meanings, and going over the book’s plot—has shown promise in boosting language growth for English Language Learners (ELLs). The report, Shared Book Reading Interventions With English Learners: A Meta-Analysis analyzed 54 separate studies of more than 4,000 students in the U.S. The report revealed an overall significant, positive effect of shared book reading on ELL’s outcomes.


Several options of engaging students using shared book reading were presented in the report. Shared reading, is “considered an effective practice for enhancing language and literacy development among both monolingual and EL children,” according to Lisa Fitton et al. The report suggests that shared reading can be used as an early intervention approach. Teachers are able to use interactive elements, such as talking with different voices for dialogue, to reinforce certain points and specific words in the text.

Teachers are able to become animated, employ language-rich interaction, and be flexible depending on the students’ language needs, communication styles, and language preferences of the adults and children involved. “The adaptability of shared reading contributes to the desirability of this instructional approach for young ELs who often come from diverse socioeconomic and linguistic backgrounds, with wide variation in their home literacy environments and caregiver support,” says Fitton.

English Vs. Home Language

The report also studied the effects of students engaging in shared book reading in English versus in their home language. Bilingual adults have the option to read in either language, and has found that reading in either language can produce different positive social, education, and cultural benefits for the children. Results showed no is no significant difference between reading in either English or students’ home languages. Some studies also found no significant difference between students in English-only or bilingual shared book reading groups.

The report reads, “These results seem to indicate that ELs benefit similarly from support in either English or their home language; therefore, the language of instruction may be flexible based on circumstantial needs and preferences.” However, researchers note that more research across larger and more diverse samples of students is needed to draw conclusions on whether monolingual, bilingual, English-only, or home language is most beneficial.

“Overall, the widespread use of shared reading as an educational activity and as a vehicle for delivering intervention programs appears to be warranted,” Fitton concluded.

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